Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City Review
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On 06/28/2010 at 12:06 AM by Nick DiMola
The combo-pack offers up two standalone stories, as well as an expanded multiplayer mode.
For fans of Grand Theft Auto IV.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City is the physical compilation of the two separate expansion packs for Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Each episode is completely unique, following a different story and a different set of characters through Liberty City. Though not directly linked to Grand Theft Auto IV, the stories will occasionally wind through the going-ons of Niko, but only as a peripheral occurrence, and clearly only as fan service. Those familiar with the gameplay and style of Grand Theft AUto IV will already know what they should expect from Episodes From Liberty City.
To be completely honest, I wasn't very impressed with the offering of Grand Theft Auto IV. The story failed to intrigue me; Niko was a completely unidentifiable protagonist, and on the whole, the game just felt like it took itself a bit too seriously. The light-hearted nature of past titles was gone, and a more cinematic and serious tone took its place. Episodes From Libery City suffers from some of the same, though arguably The Ballad of Gay Tony has a little bit of the old GTA flair that attracted me to the series in the first place.
The gameplay found across both episodes most definitely parallels the offering of Grand Theft Auto IV. Players will partake in a number of missions based mostly around transportation or violence, or both simultaneously. Now more than ever, the missions of the game serve as the only means to progress the stories of the episodes; meaning that each mission is tailor-fit to the story without too much off-the-wall stuff that you might find in a full-fledged GTA title.
Of course, side missions are still plentiful, and they offer up some unique experiences for players to enjoy. For instance, The Ballad of Gay Tony features base jumping, golfing, night club management, and dancing, while The Lost and Damned features some solid motorcycle racing, as well as gang wars where players will fight alongside their gang against a rival one.
To the credit of each episode on the disc, both feel like standalone titles, albeit short ones. This is extremely impressive given the fact that an entire expansive story is concurrently taking place in the same space. It's great to see Rockstar fully utilize their most impressive city yet, squeezing it for everything it could offer.
There's not too much to say about Grand Theft Auto that hasn't been said before. Players who have experienced the gameplay will undoubtedly recognize what they should expect from Episodes From Liberty City, especially those who have played Grand Theft Auto IV. The driving is more realistic than anything that predates IV, the shooting more refined and tailored to a smooth console experience, and the integration of missions are much better done through use of the cell phone.
Additionally, players now have access to multiplayer (similar to IV), which extends the core experience beyond the boundaries of the single player game. This means that even after players clear every possible objective of the episodes, they can hop online and enjoy the many multiplayer modes offered by the games. The mode was quite expansive even in Grand Theft Auto IV, but is made even bigger by Episodes From Liberty City.
Players will have five main modes to choose from, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, GTA Race, Race and Free Mode, many of which offer sub-modes that expand the basic concept of the mode. These include things like Chopper vs. Chopper, Witness Protection, Own the City, and Club Management. In addition to the new sub-modes, Episodes brings a slew of new weapons and vehicles.
Fans of Grand Theft Auto IV can't go wrong with Episodes From Liberty City. The same action and adventure they loved from IV is back in two completely unique, standalone stories, both offering up an expanded multiplayer mode. However, anyone who didn't connect with the gameplay of the original title most likely won't be persuaded by Episodes. The Ballad of Gay Tony does a better job of connecting the series with its 3D roots, but the style and feeling of the game as a whole is much closer to what was found in IV.